What It Really Takes

The Ensemble seeks to connect and inform all people who are committed to ensemble music education for youth empowerment and social change.

What It Really Takes

Osi Atikpoh, Freelance Musician


Tuned In is a music program based in Baltimore City that provides free, top-notch musical training for young musicians. As a Tuned In graduate, I’ve had the opportunity to meet a lot of people from a lot of non-profit art programs. Most of all, I really enjoy meeting people who are in the beginning stages of launching their own program.

At first, program logistics often appear to be the biggest challenge. “How do I raise money?” “What space can we use?” “What style of music should we teach in this program?”

These are the sorts of questions I would hear when OrchKids/Tuned In would invite leaders from different programs to share their thoughts. I would hear these questions and wonder why so much time was spent discussing the obvious challenges. Things like money, space, and artistic vision are just the tip of the iceberg.

As time goes on, you realize what it really takes to make a difference. As a kid, I saw OrchKids founders Dan Trahey and Nick Skinner personally drive kids back to their homes to make sure they got home safely. Later, when I was going through hard times and needed guidance, I was able to call Dan (Tuned In founder) and Eli Wirth (Tuned In conductor) and talk on the phone for hours – whether it was about a tuba part I needed help with, or about life in general. Tuned In may officially have been 3 to 6 PM on Saturdays, but those guys were there for me 24/7.

On paper, your program might just be a few hours a week. But it’s important to understand that what happens outside of those hours is just as important, if not more important, than what happens during program hours. Are you ready for it all? Are you ready to really make a difference? Are you really prepared to positively impact a community? Get ready for long days and long nights; this is no nine to five job.

Tuned In, like many Sistema-inspired programs and many other kindred programs, provides its students an inclusive and supportive musical community. Once we have graduated and are creating productive lives in the musical world, it’s time for us to do the same for the next generation. And it is tremendously rewarding to witness your students grow.


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